This review is intended for someone who has already seen Source Code. I’m not going to pepper my comments with spoiler alerts. The whole thing can be considered a spoiler alert.
Okay, for those of you still here…
I want to talk about the ending of Source Code, and what it means for the rest of the story. On Coulter’s last ‘jump’ (I have no better word for it) there is a freeze frame at the moment of his death. This is, to me, the natural end of the movie, and if it had ended there, it would have been a beautiful, elegant and elegiac. The movie would have become about the need to make the most of every moment we have in life – a carpe diem movie – an overused theme, to be sure, but one that is well executed.
But, of course, the movie does not end there, and the implication is that Coulter now gets to live out his life in this last jump. While this might be a happier ending, it has some ugly implications for everything that has come before. First off, it becomes apparent that Coulter is no longer reliving some dead person’s memories, but instead jumping into parallel realities. That is how he’s able to see and go to parts of the universe that would not be part of the dead man’s memories: to see the van parked at the Glenwood station, to leave the train and go into the bathroom, to see the inside of the conductor’s room. The teacher, Sean, would have no memories of these places, so he’d have nothing for which they could build a recreation.
The troubling implications of this are two-fold: first, when Coulter gets to live on at the end of his jump – what happens to Sean? Obviously, Sean went somewhere when Coulter takes his body. Where is that? Into Coulter’s body, to die? By committing suicide, did Coulter actually commit murder? And, less importantly – how long is he going to be able to fake Sean’s life before it catches up with him that he knows no one and nothing from this new world?
Secondly, throughout the movie, Coulter jumps into multiple realities – in each one, he is told that saving people is a waste, since they are already dead. But, of course, they are not. And since he has the power to save them, and doesn’t, he allows hundreds of people across many realities to die. This is not his fault, really, since he doesn’t figure it out until the end, but it is the fault of the military program that is running things. They must obviously know that they are sending him across realities, since they are asking him to take an active investigative role. So they are willingly allowing murder in the name of investigation.
Since the movie asks us to support Coulter and the military in their mission, it is asking us to be complicit in the choice. So I am left feeling somewhat used by the whole movie, simply in the name of a ‘happy’ ending. What a shame. I was so ready to support a movie that puts a Dunkin Donuts in Metra cars…